What Can You Eat with a Permanent Retainer?

Now that you received your permanent retainer, you might be wondering what you can eat with it. Some people like to eat normally with their permanent retainer and hope for the best.

However, most orthodontists will warn you to treat your permanent retainer just like braces. This means that you won’t be able to eat everything you want with your retainer.

Certain foods can dislodge the bonded wire and cause unwanted tooth movement. Other foods will stick under your retainer or create a harmful acidic environment.

Can You Eat Anything with a Permanent Retainer?

No, you cannot eat all foods with a permanent retainer. You will need to be mindful of what you eat to avoid damaging the retainer components.

Permanent retainers are made of a wire bonded to your teeth with composite material. The wire is typically braided and thin, and the composite is spread in a thin layer. This makes your permanent retainer just as fragile as braces.

Eating certain foods can cause the bonded retainer to break without you realizing it. Most people don’t even notice that a piece is broken until one tooth starts to shift.

When permanent retainers breaks and teeth shift, it’s not an easy fix. It’s not just a matter of gluing the permanent retainer back on. Most people will need a quick round of braces or aligners again to get their teeth back into place.

To help maintain your permanent retainer, you should have it checked by your dentist at least once a year. Some people might be lucky and have fewer issues depending on their bite and teeth situation. Others may break their retainers all the time.

People with deep bites are the ones who break their permanent retainers most often, but it can happen to anyone.

Foods to Avoid with a Permanent Retainer

In this section, we’ll discuss foods you should avoid as well as some advice on how to eat with a permanent retainer.

Sticky and Chewy Foods

Foods like chewing gum, toffee, and sticky candies can easily get lodged between your teeth and around the wire of your permanent retainer.

Sweet foods that get stuck between teeth will lead to cavities, in time. Plus, the food stuck around your wires will cause unpleasant changes in your breath. Avoid these treats as much as possible to keep your retainer free of debris.

Hard and Crunchy Foods

Some foods can put excessive force on your retainer brackets, causing it to bend or break. It’s best to stay away from nuts, hard candies, ice, and popcorn when you have a permanent retainer.

Tough Foods

Beef jerky and other tough, chewy meats may be challenging to eat with a permanent retainer. Try choosing softer protein options like chicken, fish, or well-cooked meat.

This doesn’t mean you can’t eat steak. Just cut the meats into small pieces to avoid putting more strain on your appliance.

Raw Vegetables

Raw vegetables can be a healthy snack, but chewing on them can damage your retainer. For instance, carrots and raw corn on the cob need quite a bit of force to bite down and chew.

Avoid biting directly into these foods. You can still enjoy raw vegetables if you chew them with your back teeth.

Bagels and Crusty Breads

The dense texture of bagels and crusty breads can cause trouble for your permanent retainer. Beware of breads that have seeds on them, as they can accidentally get lodged between retainer components. Try to eat softer bread options or cut your bagel into bite-sized pieces.

Acidic foods

Acidic foods can erode the enamel on your teeth, making them more vulnerable to decay and cavities.

When you have a permanent retainer, acidic foods can also damage the composite material that holds the wire in place. Over time, this can weaken the bond and cause the retainer to break or come loose.

Some examples of acidic foods to avoid include citrus fruits, vinegar, and soda. If you do consume acidic foods, rinse your mouth with water afterward. This will help neutralize the acid and protect your teeth and retainer.

Tips for Eating & Caring for Your Permanent Retainer

  • Take small bites and chew slowly. Try to make this way of eating a habit, it’s good for your health, too.
  • Use your back teeth to chew. Avoid biting directly into food with your front teeth. This will avoid putting too much strain on your retainer.
  • Be careful with crunchy and sticky foods. Just like when you had braces, these food restrictions help your retainer stay in place for longer.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after eating. This can help remove any food particles that may be stuck in your retainer and reduce the risk of cavities. Brush your teeth as soon as you can.
  • Use a retainer-safe toothbrush. When brushing your teeth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and be gentle around your retainer. Also, use a water flosser and floss threader to clean between your teeth and around your retainer.
Top Permanent Retainer. Source

Can You Eat Right After Getting a Permanent Retainer?

After getting a permanent retainer installed, you may wonder if you can eat right away. Orthodontists often recommend waiting 2-3 hours before eating.

However, most dental offices use light-curing dental glue that hardens instantly. So, in theory, there’s nothing wrong with eating right away after getting your permanent retainer.

Some retainer cements release fluoride, but they do so over time. Unless you’ve had a fluoride treatment, there’s no reason to refrain from eating after this procedure.

Permanent Retainer Alternatives

Most patients like the idea of permanent retainers because they’re so convenient. You don’t need to remember to wear it and it’s neatly tucked away behind your teeth.

But permanent retainers are not really permanent, and they may not be worth it in many cases. I personally don’t use permanent retainers nearly as much as I used to, and here’s why:

1. Maintaining oral hygiene with a permanent retainer can be challenging. The bonded lingual wire on the back of your teeth might make it difficult to floss and clean your teeth properly. This often leads to gum disease and gum recession.

2. Over time, permanent retainers can become distorted and cause your teeth to move. This is because the lingual wire may slightly change shape or untwist, which can affect your tooth alignment.

3. Permanent retainers only maintain the positions of 4-6 teeth. They can’t maintain the width of your arch or the positions of your back teeth. Many patients need to wear removable retainers in addition to bonded ones.

Keeping these points in mind, it may be a better option to choose a removable retainer like Hawley or Essix. It takes commitment to wear a removable retainer for life, but at least your teeth will be healthy.

If you still prefer or need to wear a permanent retainer, my advice is to only keep it for 2-3 years and then switch to a removable option.

However, opinions will inevitably vary among orthodontists. So make sure to consult with your doctor before making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat chips with a permanent retainer?

Yes, you can eat chips with a permanent retainer. Try to avoid using the teeth which have the retainer attached to them.

Can you bite into an apple with a bonded retainer?

Biting directly into an apple with a bonded retainer is not recommended. Instead, consider cutting the apple into smaller, bite-sized pieces that are easier to chew.

Can you eat nuts with a permanent retainer?

Eating nuts with a permanent retainer can be risky, as they are hard and can potentially damage or dislodge the retainer. It’s best to avoid chewing nuts directly using the teeth with the retainer attached. If you still want to enjoy nuts, try grinding them into nut butter or opting for softer nuts that are easier to chew.

Can you eat gum with a bonded retainer?

Chewing gum with a bonded retainer can be problematic as the gum might get stuck to the retainer or even dislodge it. It’s best to avoid chewing gum while you have a permanent retainer. If you want to freshen your breath, consider using sugar-free mints or mouthwash instead of gum

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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